Industry leaders call for quicker reopening of international travel

·6-min read

Changes to the traffic light system are a “positive step forward” but the Government needs to make faster progress in opening up international travel, industry experts have warned.

Four countries are being removed from England’s red list as part of the latest update to the international travel system, while seven more, including Germany are being added to the green list.

It has also been confirmed that arrivals from France will no longer need to self-isolate, aligning the nation with other countries on the amber list, from which arrivals only need to quarantine at home if they are not fully vaccinated.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have followed England in introducing the same travel relaxations.

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However, the changes have attracted criticism from the Welsh Government which has continued to advise against “all but essential” travel.

Confirmation that France is joining the amber list is “positive” especially during the “critical” school holiday period, said Mark Tanzer, head of Abta, the travel association.

But he warned the Government is “failing to capitalise fully on the success of the vaccine rollout” with a “very cautious” approach to the green list and “failure to relax restrictions on travel, including requirements for multiple tests even when visiting low risk destinations.”

He said: “As a result, the UK is falling behind our European competitors and the opening up of international travel from the UK is progressing at a snail’s pace – making it extremely difficult for travel agents and tour operators to generate enough income to kickstart a recovery, which is desperately needed to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods.”

Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said the extension of the green list is “a positive step forward” but warned the UK remains “a long way off a full and meaningful restart of international travel”.

Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, said: “Now summer is fully under way, this provides some reassurance to consumers by keeping the status quo for key holiday destinations, as well as adding some green list destinations for last-minute bookers where there are still great flight and holiday deals available.”

But he added the budget airline is “disappointed at the double standards applied to travel versus the domestic economy”.

“With infection rates remaining lower in much of Europe and the high vaccination levels in the UK, if not now, it is hard to know when the time is for much of Europe to genuinely turn green,” he said.

Mr Lundgren also called for the Government to look at the travel testing regime, saying it is adding “unnecessary cost, especially for the fully vaccinated”.

Under the latest changes, India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are being moved out of the high-risk category, meaning travellers arriving from those nations will no longer have to quarantine for 11 nights in a hotel.

HEALTH Coronavirus
Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK (PA Graphics)

Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the green list.

Spain has avoided being given red status, but the Government is urging travellers to take a PCR test before they fly home from the country.

Mexico, Georgia and the French overseas territories of La Reunion and Mayotte are joining the red list.

The changes to the travel lists come into force at 4am on Sunday.

Quarantine hotel costs are rising to “better reflect the increased costs involved”, according to the Government.

From August 12 the rate for solo travellers will rise from £1,750 to £2,285.

Additional adults sharing a room will see their bill hiked from £650 to £1,430.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government is “committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we’ve made through our successful vaccination programme”.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said changes to the travel lists are “based on the latest data and expert public health advice”, adding the announcement “demonstrates the need for continued caution”, with additions made to the red list to “help protect the success of our vaccine rollout from the threat of new variants”.

Meanwhile, new NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard has urged young people to get vaccinated as she revealed one-in-five people currently in hospital in England with Covid are aged between 18 and 34.

Ms Pritchard told the BBC that about 1,000 young adults were currently “really unwell” in hospital, adding the number of them being admitted to hospital was four times higher than the peak last winter.

She stressed young people are “not immune” to Covid.

Ms Pritchard said: “The best way they can protect themselves absolutely is to get that vaccine if they haven’t already.

“It is still really important for those young people who have not yet taken the opportunity to come forward – or they know someone who hasn’t – this is the time.”

Her comments come after it was announced on Wednesday that 16 and 17-year-olds would in the next few weeks be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – the only Covid-19 jab approved for use for people over the age of 12 in the UK.

The decision to rollout the jab to under 18s came after a recommendation made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Those aged 16 and above who want the vaccine will not need parental consent to have it.

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Ministers across the UK have accepted the recommendation and the NHS is making preparations to start giving first doses in coming weeks.

Separately, Wales announced plans to boost its self-isolation support payments for anyone told to stay home by Test Trace Protect (TTP) service from £500 to £750 a week.

Latest Government figures show a further 119 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 130,000.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 155,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

As of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 29,312 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.

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